The Night Before…

You know how right before a big storm the whole town seems to shut down? The birds flock home. There are no squirrels in sight. The whole world is eerily quiet, holding their breath, waiting for the storm to appear. That’s my world right now. Okay, maybe that’s a tad bit melodramatic. But, I really feel like I am preparing for something bigger than just an elimination diet.

Today I did our grocery shopping to stock up on all the goodies I need to get me through the next few weeks. It all started with cleaning out the entire pantry to remove any of the major temptations. I moved on to not restocking the fridge as we ran out of delicious things like cheese, and tomatoes, and eggs. I have not made any homemade bread in two weeks. It had been feeling a bit empty (although our food budget was sitting more happily than ever!).

Today I went out and stocked up on turkey, rice, quinoa, fruits and vegetables galore. I feel ready.

But, now I am just waiting. It probably shouldn’t be such a big deal. It’s not like I will be restricted on my calories. I think I’m just scared to have to change everything. There will definitely be no eating out over the next few weeks. I will legitimately miss peanut butter. Nearly all of our favorite recipes are on the “not allowed” list. Even when we can start adding foods back in, it will  be a slow process. I love to cook, but having to prepare every meal from scratch feels a little daunting. Will I be able to resist when Cupcake tries to hand me a piece of cheese to lovingly share? That kid LOVES to share and I realllllly love her snacks! Ugh.

I know this all will probably seem silly in retrospect, but I am honestly nervous about the next few days. I say this completely seriously, how am I going to be without any caffeine? I have been slowly reducing my intake, but I am still nervous. Will I be cranky? Will I be able to be patient with Cupcake? I’ve used coffee as both a pick me up and a appetite suppressant at times, so how will that change? I will miss my coffee! Clearly therein lies the problem. Since when should we have such a relationship with a specific food?

What makes peanut butter, coffee, or sugar so special? Okay, maybe the coffee has an explanation. But, still! I really want to consider why I have such a dependence on these food items.

For much of my life, I relied heavily on prepackaged foods. Diet sodas and low-fat foods were the norm. I thought I was being healthy. As I’ve started cooking more and exploring what food I’m putting in our bellies, I’ve realized how important food is. It is not just fuel. It is more.

So, while it might seem silly, I think I’m ready. I am ready for the mental part of this elimination diet. I am ready to start feeling better, even if it means temporarily feeling worse. I am ready to take charge of my own body and finally know which foods are causing me to feel so terrible. I am ready to start to move away from my heavy dependence on added sugar. Since when did fruit become not sweet enough?

I have stocked my fridge. I have prepared extra fruits and vegetables and rice so that I never catch myself too hungry. I can do this. I am ready to see what changes happen over the next few weeks. Let’s go!

September Reflections

As part of my 2015 resolutions, I post my status each month to keep myself accountable for the goals I set for myself!

This month I have not blogged pretty much at all! Life has been a whirlwind. The universe gifted me with two incredible job opportunities that have left me with not a whole lot of extra time. I also went back home for a few days to visit my parents and in-laws and effectively went off the grid for awhile. It felt great. I am finally settling into a new routine and am ready to introduce a new blogging series for October!

Now, on to my goals.

1. Design 2015 budget goals with husband to reflect past spending and current saving goals.

My goal for September was to learn about Dave Ramsey’s budgeting. I read his books, his websites, his blog posts- pretty much anything I could find. My husband and I sat down with renewed energy to tackle our budget and to make some big changes. One of those I mentioned above; I started working again! I have two work at home jobs that I am absolutely loving. Once Cupcake goes down for a nap or for bed, I quickly hop on my computer and get to work. This new addition to our income line will greatly help us toward our savings goals. This was a successful month!

My goals for October are to plan out our holiday budget for family members. If I can start figuring out what we want to gift this year, we can hopefully start to DIY some gifts and look for deals on those we cannot make. Our holiday season gets compounded with our anniversary and a multitude of family birthdays (including my mom’s 60th and my sweetie’s 30th!). Setting a budget this far in advance will really help!
2. Go to the gym (or workout at home) a minimum of four days a week.

This was successful with the exception of one week where I only worked out three times. I have been running around our neighborhood a lot as the weather starts to cool down a little! It has been wonderful. I also acquired an Ergo baby carrier so I can take Cupcake on hikes!

3. Reduce my PR of a 9 min mile pace to an 8 minute mile.

I completed a 7:57 mile in April. This goal is complete!

4. Try one new recipe a week and blog about it.

This was a big NO. However, this will certainly change in October as my Elimination Diet begins and I am will have the challenge of cooking a little differently.

5. I want to continue nursing Cupcake through 2015, unless she chooses to wean earlier.

Check! We were doing so very well with sleeping through the night until she was hit with a whopper of a virus. All the kiddos (and most of the adults) in the neighborhood have been suffering from colds, coughs, and terrible sore throats. The other little ones have also been waking up throughout the night, no matter how old they are, so I cannot entirely blame Cupcake for her lack of sleep. I am sure that once she feels totally better, we will get back to normal.

I definitely cannot imagine her wanting to wean any time soon, but yesterday she went a whole six hours without nursing DURING THE DAY (with me right there with her!). She had the option and still did not nurse! So, although it’s hard to believe, she really will wean some day. Until then, we shall forge ahead!

6. Visit my grandma every week before our move. Call her every week after we move.

I had the joy of surprising my Gramma with a visit this month. It was so joyful! She has been really sad lately about a situation with a friend, so it was great to connect with her. I know she adored seeing Cupcake and Cupcake had so much fun exploring my Gramma’s room!

7. Text/call/email a different friend every day to keep communication open.

Check!

8. I will cut my monthly consumption of soda.

My goal for September was to have no more than six 8-oz servings, but the August trend continued. I just don’t really have a taste for it these days. This is a GREAT thing as I am headed into my Elimination Diet, where soda is definitely not allowed. Coffee, on the other hand, I literally have no clue how that’s going to go. Won’t you all have so much fun laughing at my misery reading about my experience.

9. Subscribe to FlyLady Emails. Complete tasks to maintain clean and decluttered home.

This month I had to completely overall my cleaning schedule. Prior to my new job opportunities, nap time was clean time. Once Cupcake fell asleep, clean time again! My house looked great. I eventually switched to “an hour a day” mode. Now, I spend an hour a day cleaning. I set up a rotation throughout the house and start in a different room each day. If I have any extra time, I move on to the next day’s room. It has been working really well, except that my laundry keeps getting piled up! I HATE having piles of laundry everywhere.

So, my goal for October is to go back to the FlyLady methods for laundry so that I can hopefully get on top of this situation!

10. Reduce time spent watching TV

So, this whole month, the only TV my hubby and I watched was one of the Republican Debates on CNN. Totally worth it.

Unfortunately, I lost the internal battle I have with Cupcake and the TV. I am really struggling there. Instead of cutting her time, it seems to be growing. Ugh. It makes me really unhappy, but I have not done much to stop it. This month I needed time to finish a work project, and *poof* on went the TV. I had to finish dinner and Cupcake wouldn’t play alone? TV. Why is TV so magical?!?!

My goal for October is spend the month researching fun and easy alternatives for me to help increase Cupcake’s stamina for independent play. I feel like if she could play better on her own, I would not feel so tempted to turn to the television. I will work at using the first few days of the month to observe how long she can play independently and work to increase it to a level where I can get a good 15 minutes for her to play independently.

11. Post progress each month on the above goals.

Check!

Five Steps for Preparing for an Elimination Diet

When you are about to start an Elimination Diet, you need to make sure that your body is adequately prepared. There are several steps I have taken to (hopefully) ensure that this is successful.

Meet with a medical professional

I cannot stress this enough. This Elimination Diet is not for weight loss. Some individuals will experience weight loss as a result of this program since they will be eating out less and eating more whole foods. These are great reasons to be losing weight on this plan. However, this is not a plan where you severely restrict your calories. It is important to meet with a medical professional who can direct you how best to approach the plan for you. (S)he will help ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients that you need over the course of your Elimination Diet. They will also be able to advise you how to reintroduce the food challenges.

Track your current eating habits

Tracking your current habits is important for many reasons. One, it lets you know the types of foods you consume most frequently. Most professionals will advise you that any food you are consuming nearly every day you should consider eliminating as part of this diet. It will also give you a sense of how many calories you are consuming so that you can aim to be close to that. This diet is restrictive enough!

Plan your meals

Planning is ESSENTIAL to this diet! Most quick convenience food items will not fall under the umbrella of “allowed” foods. This means that there is more of a push for you to plan ahead. Having fresh fruit and vegetables prepared will really help during those moments that are more difficult. You will likely need to do some preemptive grocery shopping to make sure you have all the right ingredients on hand. Knowing ahead of time what your meals and snacks will be makes it much easier to be successful. Cheating on this diet is not an option! If you cheat, you just need to extend the length of the elimination phase-which NO one wants!

In the weeks leading up to this plan, I went through every cookbook we owned looking for recipes that fit the bill or would be easy to modify. I researched websites and scoured Pinterest for ideas. There is a lot out there, which makes it a lot easier! We will be cooking extras of every meal so that when we get hungry, we already have what we need on hand.  Plan, plan, plan!

Remove temptations

People are terrible when temptations are around. If my craving is right in front of me, it is going to be difficult to say no all the time. Sure, I can say no at dinnertime when my family is right there. But what about when I find myself in the kitchen alone in the middle of the night? Will anyone notice that there is a little less peanut butter in the jar? Will anyone honestly know if I steal a few animal crackers from Cupcake’s snack drawer? Maybe you have nerves of steel, but I do not! We rearranged our whole pantry so one whole side is all acceptable foods. The other side has our not-for-nows. If there is something I know I really will want, I have boxed those up and put them in the basement. Remember, these are not gone forever! But, there is something to be said for out of sight, out of mind. Plus, with that delicious fruit salad you prepared (see tip above), you have everything you need!

Plan a phase-out week (or two)

This has been the most helpful tip! An acquaintance of mine posted a picture the night before she started a diet- she was at a restaurant with an ooey-gooey double cheese burger loaded with toppings. She also had french fries with all the fixings. She finished up with a delicious looking double-fudge brownie sundae. It all looked amazing and for some people, that is exactly what they want to do the night before embarking on a new diet.

This is not a traditional diet plan, though. By indulging in these types of items the night before, you will make it significantly harder on yourself! One hidden secret of an Elimination Diet is that you often feel worse before you feel better. Your body is going through cravings and withdrawals to the sugar and the caffeine and numerous other things you’ve been putting in your body. Instead, you want to slowly phase-out from your typical diet to make it an easier transition.

Since October 1st is a Thursday, I actually started phasing-out this past Sunday because I’d rather get a head-start. I have started drinking only half a cup of coffee in the morning and half in the afternoon, as opposed to my normal 2 cups a day. I have reduced the milk and sugar I put in my coffee, as well. Each day I have eliminated one of the foods from my diet that will not return until the challenge phase.

Armed with these tips, I hope that I can be a bit more prepared for what is to come! Wish me luck!

So What Can You Eat?

If you have ever heard of a total elimination diet (TED) before, you know they can be very restrictive. Reading the long list of items you cannot eat leads to a very important question- so what can you eat?

The answer is surprisingly a lot! Again, the TED that I am going on is under medical supervision. This is not a weight loss plan and I am not reducing my overall calories. They are just being altered. Changed. Transmogrified (I love that word).

Now before I show you what I can eat, remember that I am not going this alone. These are the foods that *I* have been told I can eat. There are certainly more limited TEDs out there, but this is the one I was given. I have more range with my meat category than some are given based on a variety of reasons. If I have no changes in my symptoms by the end of the month, some of the following items may be further restricted, but based on current evidence I am allowed all of the following:

Meat- Chicken, Turkey, Lamb and Fish (not shellfish).

Carbohydrates- Quinoa, Rice and Sweet Potatoes

Vegetables- All except for tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and corn

Fruit- All except for bananas, strawberries and citrus

Beverages- Water and herbal teas

This may not seem like a lot. Admittedly, at first I was terrified. But then I started reviewing some of my favorite recipes and realized I could make this work.

Noodles in my favorite Chicken Noodle Soup could be substituted with rice. I could make sweet potato fries with turkey burgers for our cookouts. Baked apples with cinnamon are one of my favorite autumn treats that I can continue to eat. Plus, the goal is not to eat only these foods for the rest of forever. Quite the contrary, the goal is to be able to add in most foods back to my diet! I just want to ensure that what I choose to add back in really works for my system.

Since my husband will be joining in on this with me for moral support (and because I cook most/all meals), it will be interesting when we get to the challenge phase to find out which foods don’t work for his system either! There are bound to be quite a bit of differences, but with that knowledge, I can better prepare meals for us as a family in the future.

Before the Elimination Diet

As I’ve written about, I am about to start a Total Elimination Diet (TED). This is to combat a multitude of health issues I have been having to hopefully identify if there are any food intolerances at play.

As a way to keep a record for myself, I wanted to record any symptoms and issues I am having at my baseline so that I can notice how they evolve and change over time. It will also help me as I start to reintroduce foods to my body later in the process.

My current symptoms:

  • Migraines (2x a month)
  • Digestive Issues
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Acne
  • Itchy Skin/Rashes
  • Runny/Stuffy nose
  • Dark Circles under eyes
  • Frequent muscle aches
  • Anxiety

Evaluation of Current Eating Plan-

For the past month, I have tracked all of the foods I have been eating. I was really hoping to notice a trend in my symptoms and be able to correlate them with what I had consumed so I could avoid an Elimination Diet. Clearly, I was unsuccessful. Using online trackers, I generally keep within 1500-1800 calories a day. Some of my favorite foods are peanut butter, homemade bread, tomatoes and sugary things- all of which will not be allowed on my new plan. I drink coffee daily, and have started to taper that off so that I do not throw myself into a withdrawal-induced migraine once I officially drop that habit. I have to admit I am nervous.

I am taking on this challenge under medical guidance because I want to make sure that I am eating enough. It could be really easy to drop weight if I just limited myself to salad and chicken breast! While that certainly will be a meal option here and there, I want to make sure that I am including everything I need for a well-rounded diet. As I am still nursing Cupcake, I will continue taking my prenatal vitamins to make sure that any temporary nutritional holes in my diet are filled.

I think a lot of this eating plan will be emotional. I have found that over the past few days, I have been craving all of the foods I know I will not be able to have as I get started. It hasn’t been too much of a problem (as I slowly remove my spoon from the peanut butter jar), but I will definitely be sure to include the not so cheery parts of this plan, as well.

I have been told that the first few days are not fun. Oftentimes the body goes through a withdrawal period where symptoms seem to get worse before they get better. When I heard that, I all about jumped ship. Why would I want to do this to myself? I was reminded that although it will be difficult to start, I will feel so much better afterward. The next few weeks will be trying, but as I start to add foods back to my diet, it will just get better and better.

Selfishly, I am glad we are doing this now. There are no major holidays for a little while to tempt me. By the time Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, we will be through the strictest parts and will have many more options to choose from, knowing that they are safe for our bodies. We also would love to expand our family at some point, so I want to do this before that happens. Obviously if I were to fall pregnant, that would be part of the considerations in how to proceed on this plan.

All in all, I am more excited than nervous. I am ready to feel good again! Wish me luck!

Elimination Diet Introduction

I always said I wouldn’t do one. I was not going to do an elimination diet because they seemed like another big fad. And it sort of seems like they are! If you Google “Elimination Diet,” you will find a million different websites. You can find meal plans, recipes, and everything you need to leave you thoroughly confused!

You see, each website tells you to eliminate slightly different things. There are a few items that seem to be eliminated from nearly every elimination diet out there. Dairy, processed meats, and wheat are usually the first things to go. Many websites suggest avoiding soy, eggs, legumes, and nuts. Others also include restrictions on certain vegetables and fruits. It can be a lot to take in as you sit and wonder what exactly you can eat.

Which is why I always said no, until I was forced to say yes. Starting in high school, I developed migraines. They lasted throughout college and into my mid-twenties. Then, I got pregnant with a certain cutie pie and they virtually disappeared! I still got normal people headaches, but no real migraines! Then, the real magic came after she was born. For over a year, I did not have any headaches. No migraines to speak of. It was awesome. I thought I was cured. Then, this summer they returned with a vengeance. I once drove two hours to visit my sisters and nephews to only be able to stay 15 minutes due to a terrible migraine. I barely remember anything from the day, other than pulling over on the side of the road crying because the street lights were too bright for me. It was a difficult day.

Since then, the migraines have continued. I also have been having other odd symptoms. I’ve developed acne that I never experienced before. I have frequent heartburn and digestive issues. I have no energy at all. I am bloated and my stomach frequently bothers me. So, I started to wonder what was wrong with me. Is it hormones? Is it something I am eating? Is it environmental? Am I sick? Is it my thyroid? Anemia? What was going on with me?!

It was then suggested that I undergo an Elimination Diet. I had to get rid of all dairy from my diet for a few months last year for Cupcake. It was hard- really hard. When I added dairy back in to my diet, I looked for any unusual symptoms or reactions. However, my body seemed to be handling it just fine. I was then informed that I had introduced it all wrong. I introduced dairy as a whole category. Welcome back cheese and yogurt and sour cream and milk! Instead of taking time to introduce just one new dairy product at a time, I just reopened that category and never looked back. It is likely that one of the aforementioned food items is a problem for me, but I am not even sure which!

Finally I realized that enough was enough. Life is way too short to be feeling this terrible. I had been told to try an elimination diet in the past to deal with my migraines, so I revisited that idea. With medical guidance, I am going to embark on this journey on October 1st. I will be coming here to share how I feel throughout the process and what I learn along the way. I will be posting recipes in case anyone else ever finds themselves in the same position. This is NOT a tool for weight loss.

If you want to go on an elimination diet as a way to drop some pounds before a big event, go elsewhere. If you want to try it because some celebrity went on one, go check out his or her webpage. Instead, I will be posting because I do not have the time to be making three different meals for my family. My husband and Cupcake will be eating along with me. For those of you worried that they might not get enough of what they need, think again. This is exactly why I am blogging about it. I wanted an Elimination Diet that would work for real people with real families and I had a hard time finding one.

I am not about to go out and buy a bunch of crazy ingredients that we’ve never tried before! My meals will not always be the most exciting. They will pretty much always follow a similar pattern of protein, gluten-free grain and vegetables. Rice, quinoa and sweet potatoes will probably be my BFFs as I love my carbohydrates! This is not, I repeat, a weight loss plan. This is a chance to heal my body and figure out what is going on.

Please join me on my next big adventure!